FRISCO, Texas – Maybe I'm getting sensitive in my old age, but I don't really love the idea of labeling people as "winners and losers."
That's the trope that always follows the NFL Combine, as we seek to sort out who helped their draft stock and who hurt it. I totally understand the concept. The gauntlet of tests and drills that make up the Combine always separate players, for better and for worse. But I still don't like the idea of labeling it in such a simplistic fashion.
Instead, I want to take a look at a handful of storylines that will affect the Cowboys in this draft cycle, and how these Combine performances might change the narrative.
Here we go:
Let's talk about Derrick Brown
If you follow the draft, you should be familiar with the Auburn standout. You probably also came to the conclusion a long time ago that Brown will be drafted well before the Cowboys come up on the clock at pick No. 17.
Brown's workouts made me raise my eyebrow, though. The guy has some of the best tape in this draft class, and he is unquestionably powerful. His 28 reps on the bench press was one of the 10 best performances among defenders.
That said, some of his other workouts were concerning. His 8.22 time in the 3-cone drill, which is designed to measure quickness, bend and agility, was the worst among players who participated. His 27-inch vertical jump and his 5.16 40-yard dash also were not particularly impressive.
Tape is ultimately the most important part of an evaluation, and Brown's is outstanding. If I had to guess, he'll still be off the board sooner rather than later. But those type of results can drop a guy's draft stock, and maybe the Cowboys will have an unexpected talent hovering around in their draft range.
DTs A Plenty
Brown and South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw are widely seen as the best defensive tackles in this draft class. But I was impressed by what I saw from a lot of guys that might be available much later on.
Texas A&M's Justin Madubuike put on a really fun showing, posting a 4.83 40-yard dash and a 7.37 3-cone time. That's some pretty fantastic athleticism for a guy whose college tape is awfully impressive, if a little raw. Ohio State's Davon Hamilton, TCU's Ross Blacklock and Missouri's Jordan Elliott all had nice showings, as well.
The point being: we're going to talk a lot about Kinlaw and whether he'll fall to No. 17, and that's fine. But this appears to be a fairly talented class, and the Cowboys should have options on Day 2 if they want to go that route.
A Name To Know
It's always a fun exercise trying to circle the name the Cowboys will eventually call out on Draft Night. To this point in the process, we've heard a lot about Javon Kinlaw, as well as the pair of safeties – Alabama's Xavier McKinney and LSU's Grant Delpit.
Then there are the cornerbacks, of which there are several. If the Cowboys try to replace Byron Jones in the draft, there's a handful of names that commonly get referenced: Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Florida's C.J. Henderson and LSU's Kristian Fulton.
Coming out of Combine Week, it's probably time to familiarize yourself with Henderson.
The Florida Gator standout has long been considered one of the best man-to-man corners in this class, and he posted the numbers to bolster that claim. Weighing in a 6-1, 204 pounds, he clocked a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, which was third-best among defensive backs. He also posted a strong 37.5-inch vertical, which put him in the top five.
For the millionth time, Combine results don't mean everything. But those are pretty freaky numbers for a guy who already boasts really impressive college tape. If Henderson wasn't already in consideration to be the 17th overall pick, he probably should be now.
Lacking An Edge
I have long been of the opinion that the Cowboys need to make Robert Quinn one of their biggest priorities this March. He posted 11.5 sacks on the opposite side of DeMarcus Lawrence last season. He's only 30 years old, but his age should conceivably lower his asking price compared to that of a younger player.
Coming back from Indianapolis, I believe that stronger than ever.
To put it simply, other than Ohio State freakshow Chase Young – who will go off the board super early -- this class of edge rushers just doesn't wow me.
Iowa's A.J. Epenesa is one of a couple of defensive ends who commonly gets linked to the Cowboys, but his Combine showing isn't going to convince many people.
Now, let's not get it twisted: Epenesa's game was never about freaky athleticism. Watching his college tape, the 6-5, 275-pounder is more about power and relentless motor, in my opinion. Still, a 5.04 40-yard dash and a 7.34 3-cone don't scream that this is a top-20 draft pick. His 17 bench press reps weren't incredibly impressive, either, ranking him last among defensive linemen.
I still think he's a really good player and a guy who will have a productive NFL career. I'm just not sure the total package is worth the No. 17 overall pick.
It's harder to judge the other top-tier pass rusher in this class. LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson opted not to work out last week, choosing instead to show his stuff at his school Pro Day in April. Plenty of people have voiced concerns about how well-rounded he is as a prospect. But if Chaisson puts on the show people expect him to at his Pro Day, it might not matter. His pure athleticism might see him off the board before the Cowboys even factor into the equation.
Regardless, these aren't prospects I'd want to task with replacing an All-Pro – not as rookies, at any rate. You can't fill every need with a draft pick, and it simply seems like this is a spot where the Cowboys would be better off re-signing the guy they already have.
It's only March 2, but we have assuredly beaten the safety conversation into the ground. If we had to handicap the favorites to be the Cowboys' first-round pick, LSU's Grant Delpit and Alabama's Xavier McKinney would assuredly be near the top of the list.
I wonder how that's going to change in the coming weeks, though. Minnesota's Antoine Winfield Jr. has been lurking in the background of the conversation, but that won't be the case much longer. On top of his outstanding game tape, Winfield went to Minneapolis and showed out with a 4.45 40-yard dash.
The 40 is obviously an overrated metric, but it is a moneymaker for defensive backs. Winfield's 5-9 frame might be troubling for some, but he has top-notch ball skills and he hits like a dump truck. Showing off some high-end speed at the Combine helps prove he can do that at the next level.
I can't help but think of Maryland safety Darnell Savage just last year. Loads of draftniks, myself included, were high on him as a Day 2 prospect. Then, he posted a 4.36 and a 7.03 at the Combine and the Green Bay Packers made him the first safety drafted, grabbing him with the 21st overall pick.
The point being: we in the media often think we know everything about the talent pool, and we're often exposed for just how far behind the evaluators we actually are. For all the talk about Delpit and McKinney, I wonder just how high Winfield can climb in the conversation.